- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN ANTONIO -- Sometime during the third quarter of a Game 1 that just couldn't find a rhythm, Kobe Bryant chimed in on Twitter some 1,350 miles away from San Antonio at his Newport Beach, Calif. home.
"This game has a 'steal one' written all over it for us," Bryant tweeted.
It looked that way for a little while, with the Los Angeles Lakers cutting the San Antonio Spurs' lead that was 12 shortly after halftime down to four after a Steve Blake fadeaway jumper midway through the third. But rather than wilt with a little pressure, San Antonio had the cushion back to 13 heading into the fourth and ultimately held firm for a 91-79 victory.
Coming into the series, the Lakers talked about their defense needing to show up and set the tone, and guess what? That happened.
The Spurs shot just 37.6 percent from the field, but L.A. was more anemic on offense, shooting three for 15 (20 percent) on 3-pointers.
We'll see if the Lakers missed a golden opportunity Sunday or if they just needed to flush a game out of their system before Game 2.
How it happened: Quite simply, the Spurs' guy with the injured hamstring outplayed the Lakers' guy with the injured hamstring. Not that Steve Nash was terrible out there, he gutted out 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting in 31 minutes with three assists and just one turnover, but he was a step slow on defense and missed a few timely shots that really could have made it a tight game in the third. Manu Ginobili, meanwhile, only scored two more points than Nash (18) and shot slightly better (6-for-13), but he made timely contributions with a momentum-swinging 3-pointer late in the third quarter to put the Spurs up 12 and a nail-in-the-coffin assist to Matt Bonner, who hit a 3 late in the fourth, to seal it.
What it means: The Spurs came into the game having lost their last five regular-season games against Western Conference playoff teams, and coach Gregg Popovich admitted that his team looked "discombobulated" when he spoke to the media before Sunday's game. Meanwhile, the Lakers had won five straight, including two in a row without Bryant, and seemed to be clicking. So, what does Game 1 mean? That the regular season is ancient history. The Spurs got back to their game when it counted. Now L.A. has to prove it can do the same.
Hits: Pau Gasol (16 points, 16 rebounds, six assists) was just four assists away from his third triple-double in his past four games.
Dwight Howard had 20 points and 15 rebounds and was able to manage playing with five fouls without fouling out.
Misses: Jodie Meeks (1-for-4) not only had a rough day from the field, but he suffered a mild sprain of his left ankle. Lakers trainer Gary Vitti re-taped Meeks, and the backup guard was able to get back in the game, but they’ll have to monitor the swelling heading into Game 2.
Howard started off 2-for-2 from the free throw line and finished 4-for-8.
Stat of the game: Howard (8-for-12) was the only Lakers player to shoot better than 50 percent.
Up next: The teams get two days of rest before Wednesday's Game 2. The time off should benefit the Lakers, as it will give Nash and Meeks two days to recover and Mike D'Antoni two days to make adjustments.
2dAmin Elhassan and Baxter Holmes